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Posted on Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

Third new restaurant in four months: Smokehouse 52 planned for downtown Chelsea

By Lisa Allmendinger

Smokehouse 52 site.JPG

Smokehouse 52, a new barbecue restaurant, is planned for this building at the corner of Main and Park streets in Chelsea.

Lisa Allmendinger |

Editor's note: This article has been updated with information about the New Chelsea Market, which currently occupies the Smokehouse 52 space.

Main Street in Chelsea is fast turning into restaurant row. Plans for another new dining option, the third in four months, have been announced.

The newest addition is Smokehouse 52, a barbecue restaurant, which will be owned by Phil Tolliver at 121-125 Main St. currently occupied by the New Chelsea Market. Kevin Riley, owner of the market, said he is looking for a larger space in Chelsea and expects to be able to announce a new lease agreement soon.

In an interview Tuesday night, Tolliver said that he’d called barbecue champion Mike "The Legend" Mills and driven to Southern Illinois to learn the art of barbecue from the renowned pitmaster. Mills owns a number of nationally acclaimed barbecue restaurants in Illinois, Las Vegas and New York City.

“Smokehouse 52 will be a unique restaurant and a true destination place bringing people to Chelsea. We will be one more reason to visit our great city,” Tolliver said in a letter to the Chelsea City Council.

According to a rough draft of plans for the interior of the new restaurant, it will have seating for about 180-190 people, a bar and an area in the far back corner for the smoker for the “real pit BBQ.”

Tolliver, of Howell, said he'll begin renovations to the building this summer and plans to open this fall.

Meanwhile, Riley assured customers that he's committed to finding a new location in town for his store. "We are definitely not going out of business. We love Chelsea and we've built a growing business. ... We are looking for a larger area to be able to expand our line of Zingerman's and local products."

The announcement of the plans for the new restaurant follows the news about plans for the Chelsea Alehouse, which also expects a fall opening, and Bistro 52, planned for the old post office building at the corner of Main and South streets.

Tolliver got unanimous approval Tuesday night from the Chelsea City Council to proceed with a liquor license application through a new state provision for redevelopment projects or downtown development areas.

Chelsea City Manager John Hanifan said that the city had already approved two of these new licenses.

Tolliver plans to feature real pit barbecue, which will be smoked on site. The lunch and dinner menu will include pulled pork, beef brisket and “even whole hog.”

“We will also have house-made sauces highlighting regional American BBQ,” Tolliver's letter states.

When Council Member Rod Anderson asked which state has the best barbecue, Tolliver answered without hesitation, “Chelsea, MI.”

The new restaurant owner said he plans a “vintage Americana” look with “unique artifacts such as weathered flags and a 100-year-old school bell.”

And, he plans to keep the iconic cow that currently hangs outside the building.

There will be wood plank flooring, timbers, cedar shakes, copper accents and barn wood inside.

Council Member Cheri Albertson was absent from the meeting.

Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter for She can be reached at For more Chelsea stories, visit our Chelsea page.


Hannah Tolliver

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11 p.m.

I am sooo proud of you Daddy!!!! Good luck with your restaurant!!!!!!!!!! I <3 you!!!


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

As a Chelsea person, I worry about making our downtown focus on a "destination" for out of towers, mainly food and gifts. Some is great, yes, but we need diversity and retail that residents will use 7 days a week, all day long. And I don't know whether it is true or not, but I've heard many times that downtowns that are heavily focused on dining are not as healthy as diverse ones. I'd like to walk around downtown and see my fellow residents, not just people from Ann Arbor. We've lost our post office, card shop, donut shop, book store, drug store (true, longer ago), ice cream shop, and now maybe the (upscale) market?


Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 1:56 a.m.

i have know Phil Tolliver for a while and i wish him the best...... i definately will go to his restaurant when it opens!!


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

And how is Chelsea going to park all the cars. There is no room now for the cars and you will add more . Chelsea open your eyes get the people of Chelsea a place to park.

Navaeh Johnson

Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

Isn't more business a good thing for Chelsea? I can see your point about limited parking- I have a feeling this place is going to be a very popular destination which we should all be excited for!

Jeff Frank

Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 5:44 p.m.

I've always been able to find a place to park so I'm not quite sure what you mean.... maybe the space isn't right in front of where I'm going but with 4 city lots within a 2 block radius (east of Main between Middle and Park, on Park next to the library, west of Main between Middle and South, and north of Heydlauff's next to the tracks) plus street parking and the Clocktower lots (nominally only for those doing business in the building, but riiiiight), parking doesn't seem to be a major issue.

sun runner

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 10:06 p.m.

"Smokehouse 52" and "Bistro 52" across the street from each other? Something about that just doesn't sit right. Someone please come up with a better name for their business that doesn't involve a state route number. Kevin at the market assured me yesterday that I would still be able to walk to the market's new location from my house, which is currently less than a quarter-mile away. So I believe it's a safe bet to say they will still be in the immediate downtown area...somewhere.

Navaeh Johnson

Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

Smokehouse 52 was an established name before "Bistro 52" ever came into the picture.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 9:01 p.m.

Lets see, barbecue and beer, how about a "healthy" type of place to eat in this town. Yes there is vogels and fosters and the others you mentioned monoster but not everybody can afford their prices and they do not have much of a varity of things. Chelsea needs a good "all around" little deptment store so varied different things can be purchased.

Navaeh Johnson

Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

I don't see what's wrong with a family-friendly, affordable and fun place to eat in Chelsea.

Jeff Frank

Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 5:38 p.m.

We had one of those... well, we had Pamida anyway... but the selection and prices couldn't compete with what is probably the worst Meijer in the chain when it comes to the general merchandise portion of the store. Family Farm & Fleet is headed into the old Pamida space though, so there should be a new option for jeans and other casual clothing.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

It was said at a May chelsea city council meeting that the old post office was sold and going to be renovated and become a restaurant. So is chelsea going to have two across the street from each other or did someone change their mind? More places to eat but no place to buy a pair of socks or a towel,etc.

Spaghetti Monster

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 8:24 p.m.

Except Vogel's and Foster's, which has been in business in downtown Chelsea for over a hundred years. Or at the Mule Skinner. Or at Vintage Vamp Boutique. Got a baby? Try GCB. Derp....


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:21 p.m.

I wish some good restaurants would come to Ann Arbor at Jackson Rd & Baker rd!!


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:02 p.m.

SWEEEEEEEEET...Chelsea great little town. Love paying it a vistas now ill have 1 more reason.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

Found this on the Chelsea Market's Facebook page: " The rumors of our death have been greatly exaggerated." There are many rumors floating around so we thought we would address a few. "Are you closing?" No. Our building is for sale. As of this moment we have been not told if it has been sold. We love having a business in Chelsea "Are you going to move?" Yes, in all likelihood. We are looking at several downtown locations that are bigger we currently have and others slightly out of downtown. We would like to expand our Zingerman's baked goods and our housewares to be more "Kitchen Port" like. Size will matter when we make our decision "We heard you are moving the store to Manchester." No. We bought a retired firehouse to ultimately put a commercial kitchen in. Nothing more. That we allow us to offer prepared meals to sell only at the store. "Business is down." Wrong. Our sales have been positive for many months. Our product offering is always evolving as we are looking for products that our customers have expressed a need. Any other rumors about downtown, other business's, would be speculation, which we will not address. We will put out a press release to the media this weekend. Thanks for your support. "Fear the rumor."

Always Amazed

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

Is Chelsea Market going out of business?


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

If you look closely at the photo, there is a sign in front of the market that says, "Check Chelsea Market Face Book Page for Rumor Truths!" Maybe the answer is there.